The Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University discovered a 2,600-year-old ancient bulla seal impression bearing the inscription “(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King” in the City of David just outside the Old City of Jerusalem, according to an announcement on Sunday.
The surprise discovery was lauded as empirical evidence of the veracity of Jewish accounts of their history in Jerusalem.
“Although it is not possible to determine with complete certainty that the Nathan-Melech, who is mentioned in the Bible, was in fact the owner of the stamp, it is impossible to ignore some of the details that link them together,” Dr. Anat Mendel-Geberovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for the Study of Ancient Jerusalem, who deciphered the seal, said in a statement.
Natan-Melech is named as an an officer in the court of King Josiah in Kings II 23:11.
The unique bulla was discovered in a First Temple period public building that is part of the excavations in the City of David National Park’s Givati Parking Lot. Additional artifacts were also discovered.
“Since many of the well-known bullae and stamps have not come from organized archaeological excavations but rather from the antiquities market, the discovery of these two artifacts in a clear archaeological context that can be dated is very exciting,” Professor Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.
“They join the bullae and stamps bearing names written in ancient Hebrew script, which were discovered in the various excavations that have been conducted in the City of David until today,” continued the statement. “These artifacts attest to the highly developed system of administration in the Kingdom of Judah and add considerable information to our understanding of the economic status of Jerusalem and its administrative system during the First Temple period, as well as personal information about the king’s closest officials and administrators who lived and worked in the city.
“The destruction of this building in a fire, apparently during the Babylonian conquest of the city in 586 BCE, strengthens our understanding of the intensity of the destruction in the city.”
A stamp-seal made of “bluish agate stone, engraved with the name ‘[belonging] to Ikar son of Matanyahu,’ ” was also discovered, according to the release.